X-Message-Number: 6068
From: Mark Muhlestein <>
Newsgroups: sci.cryonics
Subject: Re: Fear of the "unnatural"
Date: Fri, 12 Apr 1996 12:11:18 -0700
Message-ID: <>
References: <>

Marvin Minsky wrote:


> Roderick A. Carder-Russell wrote:
>> >       I will admit that the normal reaction is more along the lines of
> >shock and or entertainment as opposed to outright refusal to consider or
> >listen, etc..  I am speaking of the rare cases that I have lost people,
> >but the reaction of being afraid of the technology is found very
> >frequently in people in my area.
> What's the name of the sociologist who introduced the term 'cognitive
> dissonance"?  He observed that if you confront a person with a new
> idea that they don't like, the frequent result is that they'll move a
> bit in the direction of that idea, but they'll also like you less than
> before.

Leon Festinger introduced it in the 1956 book _When Prophesy Fails_.  It 
centers on the behavior of a group of people who believed in the 
writings of a woman who purported to have direct contact with space 
aliens and who made a series of dramatic predictions that failed.  The 
surprising observation was that in the face of obvious evidence to the 
contrary, the believers continued to accept the woman's writings, and 
many even belived more strongly. Other examples abound.  The lesson to 
me is that if people have a strong investment in a certain way of 
thinking, it is very difficult to convince them otherwise, regardless of 
how compelling or rational the evidence is.

I do agree though, that when a person is confronted with an idea they 
don't like but which looks plausable, there will be some elements in the 
mind that will be swayed toward the idea, and in that sense the person 
can be said to move toward the idea.  It also makes sense that the memes 
or agents currently in control of the mind will be offended by the idea, 
resulting in a desire to avoid more contact with its source.

My wife Judy recently had an interesting experience in this connection. 
One of the students in a medical class she was taking had an extremely 
negative reaction when the conversation turned to cryonics. She 
complained that cryonicists were trying to "play god" and that it wasn't 
fair for future generations, etc. She became very angry, and refused to 
sit by or talk to Judy as she had previously.

Judy felt bad about it, but she just more or less wrote off the 
friendship.  However, a couple of weeks later her friend approached her 
and started asking her questions about cryonics.  She apologized for her 
outburst, and said she was really interesed in finding out more about 
cryonics for herself and her husband. It turns out that she has an older 
sister who died recently of an inherited disease which she has a 50% 
chance of inheriting also.

I think much of her negative reaction had to do with the fact that the 
subject of cryonics forced her to think about the reality her own death, 
which is one of the most strongly censored and avoided areas of thought. 
At least some portion of her mind must have looked with favor on the 
idea though, and in the course of the next weeks no doubt a battle of 
sorts ensued among the "dissonant" cognitive elements.

> My old friend B.F.Skinner was aware of this, and enjoyed confronting
> free-will advocates with his deterministic theories.  I don't recall
> asking him about it, but my impression was that he felt a pleasing
> sense of accomplishment if they went away exclaiming that he
> must be a terrible person.

That's ok as long as you are right :-)

> I copied him.  It made me feel good, too.

You terrible person!

Mark Muhlestein -- 
Do not go gentle into that good night,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

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